There's a one-story building just off Liberty Drive in downtown Wheaton, Illinois, that seems similar to its neighbors—unless you happen to walk by and overhear the high-pitched whirring of a coffee roaster.
On a cold winter morning, the founder and roast master of Second Chance Coffee Company sits at a plastic fold-up table, a three-foot metal tube resting at his feet. It's a spare heater for the coffee roaster. Pete Leonard expects the current one to give out sometime during the Christmas season, when orders will begin pouring in.
"We're always in transition," Leonard says, handing me a mug of coffee brewed from beans roasted just hours before. Eyes lit up, he explains the delicate roasting process that highlights the one-of-a-kind flavor compounds in the coffee.
But Leonard, a Christian, isn't just a coffee connoisseur. He spends just as much time thinking about the people who roast it. The story of Second Chance, which markets coffee under the brand I Have a Bean, begins at a plantation in Brazil, where Leonard first encountered coffee roasting on a mission trip eight years ago. It was the best coffee he'd ever tasted.
"It had never occurred to me that a human being roasted coffee beans," he says, smiling. "As far as I was concerned, coffee came from Starbucks."
After he returned and drank all the coffee he'd brought home, he took matters into his own hands. Leonard, then part-owner of a local software company, began researching the science of coffee roasting: the process of using heat to bring out the color, taste, and smell of green coffee beans. Inspired, he designed and built a coffee roaster in a gas grill in his garage. Neighbors began coming ...